Former champions Sergiu Ciobanu and Stevie Duncan go head to head in Saturday’s 25th Spar Omagh Half Marathon which is expected to have almost 3,000 athletes in action.
Moldovian International Ciobanu from Clonliffe in Dublin won at the Co. Tyrone venue in both 2010 and 2012 and was a close second last year when Stephen Scullion broke the record with 64 minutes 46 – just two seconds under the 2012 time.
Duncan from the promoting Omagh club won in 2011 and has been second on three other occasions.
The four times Waterside winner was injured for most of last season but showed that he is back in shape with victory in the Northern Ireland Masters.
Gary O’Hanlon, also Clonliffe is a former Longford and Newry winner, Gary Murray from St Malachy’s has taken Ulster and Irish crowns, while Greg Roberts from City of Derry was second in the City of Culture Marathon.
Add in former Irish kingpin Gary Crossan, Emmett McGinty, Brendan Teer, Leroy Brady, Eddie Cooke, Barrie Atkinson and Mark Wright and it will be a fascinating race.
There is still a small chance that reigning champion and record holder Stephen Scullion will enter and he would obviously be among the favourites.
Maria McCambridge the Dublin Marathon champion will start favourite in the Ladies. The former Olympian took her fifth Greencastle success in six years on Boxing Day.
Holder Ann-Marie McGlynn won the Waterside Half Marathon in September before qualifying for the Europeans while Donna Evans second last year, Karen Alexander and Anne Paul will also place highly.
The wheelchair event features brilliant Larne winner Patrick Monahan against the established pair Paul Hannon and Jim Corbett.
The race which is the third round of the Pure Running/ChampionChip Ireland Series has a prize fund of over £5,000 with technical t-shirts for the first 2,000 entries. There is also a draw for a 32” flat screen TV. The nominated charity is the Omagh Areas Down Syndrome Support Group.
The walk starts at 11 o’clock with the main half marathon and 5K fun run both at 12noon.
Also today the Donard Challenge at Newcastle will include the first round of the British Mountain Racing Championship with cross channel runners making up the vast majority of the 250 strong field.
Four times winner of the classic Ben Nevis race Finlay Wild from Loch Aber will be among the favourites along with Lloyd Taggart of Manx and brothers Robb and Danny Hope from Pudsey and Bramley.
Others to watch include Matthew Roberts, Pete Vale and ultra specialist Ben Abdelnoor and Paul Tierney along with Darren Kay and Jim Davies.
Glenariff winner Jonny Steede and Alan Bogle will be leading locals along with Seamus Lynch, Deon McNeeley, Neil Carty and Wicklow winner Justin Maxwell.
Helen Fines makes a habit of winning in the Mournes. The Calder Valley runner took the Silent Valley race last year and will dispute the lead with Victoria Wilkinson of Bingley. Jackie Lee, Charlotte Morgan, Hazel Robinson and Caitlin Rice will also feature.
Diane Wilson leads the home challenge along with Shileen O’Kane, Taren McCoy, Jackie Toal and Hazel McLaughlin.
The race covers 10K in distance including 850 metres of climb. The headquarters are at Newcastle Baptist Hall on the Bryansford Road with the action starting at 12noon.